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Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — campaign finance

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit


Constitutional Law — freedom of speech — campaign finance

Wisconsin’s ban on political spending by corporations is unconstitutional.

“To sum up, we conclude as follows: Corporate-speech ban. Section 11.38(1)(a)1, the ban on political spending by corporations, is unconstitutional under Citizens United. Cap on corporate fundraising for an affiliated PAC. Section 11.38(1)(a)3, the cap on the amount a corporation may spend on fundraising for an affiliated political committee, is unconstitutional under Citizens United and Barland I. Regulatory disclaimer. The lengthy disclaimer requirement in GAB § 1.42(5) is unconstitutional as applied to 30-second radio ads and ads of shorter duration. Definitions of ‘political purposes’ and ‘political committee.’ The statutory definition of ‘political purposes,’ section 11.01(16), and the regulatory definition of ‘political committee,’ GAB § 1.28(1)(a), are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in the sense meant by Buckley and require a narrowing construction. As applied to political speakers other than candidates, their campaign committees, and political parties, the definitions are limited to express advocacy and its functional equivalent as those terms were explained in Buckley and Wisconsin Right to Life II. PAC Status and PAC-Like Burdens on Issue-Advocacy Groups. The second sentence of GAB § 1.28(3)(b), which treats issue advocacy during the 30/60-day preelection period as fully regulable express advocacy if it mentions a candidate, is unconstitutional. Similarly, GAB § 1.91, which imposes PAC-like registration, reporting, and other requirements on all organizations that make independent disbursements, is unconstitutional as applied to organizations not engaged in express advocacy as their major purpose.”

“The other challenged statutes and rules survive First Amendment scrutiny.”

Vacated and Remanded.

12-2915, 12-3046 & 12-3158 Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. v. Barland

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Clevert, J., Sykes, J.

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